The Light from the TV Shows: The Prequelization Principle

You know you’re a real fan of “Psycho,” Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film adaptation of Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel, if your first reaction to hearing about A&E’s new series, “Bates Motel,” which premieres on March 18, was to grumble, “They’ve already done a TV show called ‘Bates Motel.’”

bates-motel

True enough: in 1987, NBC aired a TV movie called “Bates Motel,” which starred Bud Cort as Alex West, a fellow with a few mental troubles who shared some quality time with Norman Bates in the state insane asylum and, as a result, finds himself the beneficiary of the Bates Motel in Norman’s will. The intent was to use the movie as a backdoor pilot for a weekly anthology series of sorts, following the lives of individuals passing through as guests of the motel, but when ratings for the movie proved disappointing, the plan for the series was abandoned.

But A&E’s “Bates Motel” isn’t a retread of that premise. Instead, it’s a prequel, revealing how Norman Bates became the kind of guy who’d grow obsessed with his mother that he’d take on her identity on occasion and kill anyone who looked at him sideways.

Oh, wait, you say that’s already been done, too?

Yep, it sure has: in 1990, Showtime produced “Psycho IV: The Beginning,” which pointedly ignored the aforementioned TV movie and showed a very-much-still-alive Norman (Anthony Perkins) calling into a radio talk show about – what are the odds? – matricide, using the conversation as a framing device to flash back to his youth and reveal the bond between Norma Bates (Olivia Hussey) and her son (played by Henry Thomas). It doesn’t exactly hew 100% to the continuity established by the preceding three films, but as a standalone film for casual fins, it holds up relatively well, thanks in no small part to Perkins’ performance.

Actually, A&E’s “Bates Motel” isn’t a retread of that premise, either. Not really, anyway. I mean, yes, it starts at approximately the same point in Norman’s life, and the general idea is the same, in that it’s looking into all the Oedipal-ness of the Norma/Norman relationship. This time, though, it isn’t a period piece. For better or worse, it takes place in present day, which means that it’s arguably not a prequel at all but, instead, more of a complete reboot of the franchise.

Don’t worry, though: the Bates Motel itself still looks just as decrepit and foreboding as ever.

But, of course, “Bates Motel” is far from the first occasion of an existing property has been turned into a prequel for TV. Heck, it’s not even the first time it’s happened in 2013!

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The Light from the TV Shows: What’s New in 2013

Welcome to 2013, everybody, and welcome to the so-called midseason. The television landscape has changed more than a little bit over the past several years, creating a situation for viewers where they can generally count on getting new series offered to them by the networks at just about any time during the course of the year. Sure, the fall’s still consider the time when the big guns come out, but the midseason isn’t just a place where the dregs of programming get dumped. As you can see from the following series, the broadcast networks have plenty of interesting and – one can only hope – entertaining new offerings to keep you glued to the tube and stuck to the sofa for hours on end.

Deception (NBC, Jan. 7)


Says the network: “When wealthy socialite and notorious party girl Vivian Bowers is found dead of an overdose, no one is really surprised. The heiress to the Bowers pharmaceutical empire has been tabloid fodder for years: wild, pretty, privileged… and now dead at the age of 32. But for FBI agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso, ‘Avatar’), things don’t add up with this suspicious dynasty. Convinced that the troubled girl’s death was a homicide, he has a clever plan to get to the truth. Her name is Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good, ‘Think Like a Man’). Twenty years ago she was Vivian’s best friend and practically grew up inside the Bowers’ home. And when she appears at Vivian’s funeral, the family re-embraces her and no one is the wiser. Joanna quickly begins to uncover dark secrets and clues about why Vivian’s life was very much in danger. At the same time, she rekindles an old romantic relationship and rediscovers the allure of the luxurious lifestyle she once knew. She’s about to see once again just how the other half lives… and dies.”

The Carrie Diaries (The CW, Jan. 14)


Says the network: “It’s 1984, and life isn’t easy for 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw. Since their mother passed away, Carrie’s younger sister Dorritt is more rebellious than ever, and their father Tom is overwhelmed with the responsibility of suddenly having to care for two teenage girls on his own. Carrie’s friends – sweet, geeky Mouse, sarcastic and self-assured Maggie and sensitive Walt – make life bearable, but a suburban life in Connecticut isn’t doing much to take her mind off her troubles. And even though the arrival of a sexy new transfer student named Sebastian brings some excitement to Carrie’s world, she is struggling to move on from her grief. So when Tom offers Carrie the chance to intern at a law firm in Manhattan, she leaps at the chance. Carrie’s eyes are opened wide at the glamour and grit of New York City – and when she meets Larissa, the style editor for Interview magazine, she’s inspired by the club culture and unique individuals that make up Larissa’s world. Carrie’s friends and family may have a big place in her heart, but she’s fallen in love for the first time with the most important man in her life – Manhattan.”

The Following (Fox, Jan. 21)


Says the network: “The chilling new series focuses on former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Emmy Award-nominated actor Kevin Bacon, ‘X-Men: First Class,’ ‘Frost/Nixon’), who is brought in as a consultant when notorious serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy, ‘Rome’) escapes from death row and embarks on a new killing spree. Hardy discovers that, while in prison, Carroll was covertly communicating with a network of killers in the outside world and it quickly becomes obvious that he has more planned than just his escape.”

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